“I give, bequeath, and devise, to the Village of Vassar, the house, now occupied by me, as a home, in the Village of Vassar, to be used as a public library forever, to be known as the Bullard Library.”
In 1903, Mrs. Emma Bullard willed and bequeathed her home to be used as a public library forever and gave birth to the Bullard Sanford Memorial Library in 1906.
Mrs. Bullard was the widow of E.A. Bullard, who preceded her in death in 1897. He built several homes, owned the local pump factory and drag store. He was also a veteran of the Civil War, served on the village council, the school board, and was the village assessor.
The first Library Board included the local Presbyterian minister, Baptist minister, and the Methodist minister. The Library Board designated that two rooms of the house would be used for the Library and Reading Room, and the rest of the house would be for the Librarian. Since there was no money to pay a Librarian, free rent would be the only compensation.
Mary Livingston was the first Librarian, and the Bullard Library opened on September 3, 1906. The First books were either donated by residents, or those purchased with money raised by the various local organizations.
Mrs. Livingston remained as Librarian for only a few years and because of ill health, was forced to resign. She was replaced by Mrs. Elmer Lane and her deaf sister, Miss Gertrude Bird, who was a deaf mute. As the stacks were closed to the public, people had to write their requested book on a slip of paper when Miss Bird was on duty. The Library operated with donated books and funds until 1932 when the Village of Vassar began contributing an operating budget to the Library.
Mrs. Lane passed away after 30 years of service and Auntie Bird, as she was affectionately known, carried on alone until Miss Ula North, daughter of Vassar’s founder, Townsend North, was appointed Librarian in 1936. Miss North served for 10 years retiring on her 75th birthday in 1946.
Pauline Surgent, who was the combined City Clerk /City Treasurer at the time, was asked to become Librarian. Between 1932 and 1950, the Library Board saved $5,000 from its annual operating budget to have the Bullard house remolded. The project opened up the whole first floor and renovated the second floor for the storage of additional materials. The Library had a growing collection and a great demand for service from the community. The Librarian had to have her own home.
Anely Davis Sanford, a Vassar resident, passed away and left $24,000 to build a new library. In May 1961, the new Bullard Sanford Memorial Library was dedicated on the Bullard site. Mrs. Surgent worked singularly for several years as the Librarian. She retired in 1975 and the Library Board hired the first master-degreed, professionally-librarian, Mr. David Hart.
In 1976, the first addition to the 1961 building was added. The following year, Marcia Warner was hired to replace Mr. Hart. The Library’s material collection grew as well as the use of those materials by the area residents.
The second addition to the 1961 building was completed in 1986. The addition nearly doubled the size of the Library and allowed for a much larger collection of materials.
The Library moved forward with the addition of videos and computers, and a growing collection of print materials, services, and programs. The Librarian’s desk and workspace was moved and additional storage was developed to meet the growing need. In 1987, Mrs. Warner moved to a post with the White Pine Library Cooperative and Mr. James M. Rancilio was hired as the new Director.
In 1988, the Library opened a branch in Reese to serve Denmark Township. Due to lack of funding, the branch was closed in 1990 and Denmark Township withdrew from the service area of the Bullard Sanford Memorial Library. The Reese Unity District Library has since flourished in the area.
In 1992, The Library began a Summer Bookmobile in conjunction with Vassar Public Schools, as a way of reading to children who lived in the Library’s 80-square mile service area. The Library built a garage to house the bookmobile and create additional storage.
Former Vassar resident, Beatrice Gill DeBernardi came to the Library on a return trip to Vassar, and was amazed at the number and diverse ages of people using the Library—but was astounded at the lack of space in the facility. She donated $125,000 to build the third addition onto the 1961 building. Additional funds were raised with grants and fundraising to build the quarter-million dollar 1996 addition.
The Third addition created a permanent, large space for children’s materials and the subsequent expansion of other materials. Additionally, a small multipurpose room was created to house extra events and programs, previously held exclusively in the main part of the Library. The circulation desk, workspace areas, and offices were relocated to be more centralized. A neighboring house was purchased and moved to create parking spaces to meet the growing circulation.
Also in August 1996, the Bullard Sanford Memorial Library became a district library composed of the City of Vassar, and the Townships of Tuscola, and Vassar. The Non-Caro school district portion of Juniata Township joined the district library in 1998. The new population of the hovers to around 10,000 residents.
In 2006, Mr. and Mrs. Leon Dykhouse contributed $300,000 to build the fourth addition, at a cost of $750,000, onto the Library—its 100th Anniversary. The addition was the creation of a large multipurpose room, with dividable sections and individual temperature control stations. A space was also added for the storage of chairs, tables, a stage, Library program materials, and a complete multimedia sound system with projectors. The addition also served to greatly remodel the entry of the Library to include a foyer complete with display cases and another set of doors before entering the Library, and an additional space for small storage. The previous multipurpose room was repurposed to add a kitchenette, bathrooms, and utility closets.
Mr. Rancilio was on the forefront of Library service, often providing programs and services that, for his time, few other librarians dared to venture into. Rancilio tested and hosted weddings, fashion shows, concerts, and a circulation toy library. In 2007 The Michigan Library Association awarded him Librarian of the year due to his stellar work. Mr. Rancilio suddenly passed away in September 2011, a month shy of his 24 year anniversary as Library Director. He was replaced by Mr. Eric D. Andreychuk, a resident of Vassar. In 2015 he left to pursue other passions and Mr. Christian Dunham was hired as Library Director.
The Library expanded the collection and increased auxiliary services to patrons. Graphic novels, coloring books, and televised DVDs were added and popularized. A remodel of a former conference room became the new Teen Room. This room added tables and chairs for teens to study or read, and added four new computers with the ability to connect to the Library’s private Minecraft server. Soon after the Library offered the ability to print wirelessly from any device, and even the ability to send prints to the Library from any location, offering a pickup and pay service. The Library expanded payment services to include credit cards.
The Library continues to look for ways to increase the reach and serviceability to all patrons it serves.